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Internet makes children lazy, says academic

A leading British psychologist argued against the use of the Internet in schools, saying it makes them lazy
Written by Wendy McAuliffe, Contributor

The government's drive to incorporate the Internet into education is undermining a child's ability to retain knowledge, a leading professor in psychology has warned.

Dr Susan Blackmore, lecturer in psychology at the University of West England in Bristol, claimed on Thursday that e-learning is making children mentally lazy by encouraging them to rely on the click of a button for information. She told the audience of academics attending the debate at the Royal Institute that the expanse of information available on the Internet is preventing school children from memorising and storing knowledge in their brain.

"Traditionally, what has primarily been an issue for education has been putting knowledge into kid's heads. But now it will be about showing them how to navigate in that world," said Dr Blackmore.

Her argument is in direct contrast with the government's push to have all have all schools connected to the Internet by 2002. The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has set the National Grid for learning baseline, which requires one computer for every 11 students in primary schools, and one for every seven secondary school students by the end of next year. It also sets the target for every school to be connected to the Internet, with at least 20 percent of schools connected at a broadband level.

"[The Internet] is a powerful tool -- the government wants all pupils and teachers to be fully capable in using this tool so that they can get the best out of ITC (information and communication technologies," said a DfES spokesman. "There is a weight of evidence to show that ITC raises standards, particularly when good ITC resources are combined with good ITC training."

But Dr Blackmore stated within the debate organised by the e-learning Web site Boxmind, that teachers are "being sidelined by more efficient knowledge manipulators in cyberspace." She concluded that the emphasis on Internet learning is going to produce children with minds that are very different from adults.

Last month, the renowned British scientist Stephen Hawking argued that the increasing sophistication of computer technology is likely to outstrip human intelligence in the future. He claimed that humans should be genetically engineered if they are to compete with the phenomenal growth of artificial intelligence.

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